Making money as an artist is never easy. Especially when you’re starting out, it seems like an impossibility. How do you get people to believe in you and your work… when no one believes in you or your work? How do you find a way to support yourself when all of your efforts and time need to be spent making the artistic medium that you’ve devoted your life to?

This is a math equation that every great artist that’s ever lived has had to solve for themselves. There’s no right or wrong way to do it. There’s just the constant pulsating truth that rent waits for no one. And the music industry seems to be in a constant state of re-invention these days.

Every six months things are wildly different. And yet, the challenge of stability remains the same. As an independent artist or producer, you need to be able to find a way to monetize the content you’re creating. Which is something easier said than done, in a lot of cases. However, let’s explore some ideas of just exactly how people go about doing it:


Look, you’re not going to have anything to monetize if you’re not making music. You need to be making beats, producing tracks, playing your guitars, or rapping. You need to be doing whatever it is that you do every day. If you’re not doing it every day, you have a different problem. Your work ethic isn’t up to snuff. It might sound harsh, but it’s the truth.

You’re not driven enough, yet. You need to be instilled with a next-level hustle if you’re planning to have a career in the music industry. There are going to be dry periods. And the only way you’re going to get through them is if you have a soul forged in steel. So, before you can worry about monetizing your skill, you have to worry about developing that skill. 


Music, unlike other forms of media, has been completely capsized as an industry since the internet piracy schemes of the early 2000s. As an independent artist, it gets harder and harder to make money off your work with each passing day. This is why it’s so important to develop a staunch following of loyal fans who will follow you wherever you go.

The saying “familiarity breeds loyalty” has never been more apt. You need to be developing social media followings and online audiences so that you have someone to leverage your work to. If you have a massive catalog of work, but no one who’s aware of it, that doesn’t serve anyone. You need to build a fanbase and a skillset and then you can worry about making money off of them.


Most people probably think that making money off of streaming is only for massive artists with record deals. However, that’s not completely true. It’s important to have your music available on streaming. Even if the royalties aren’t huge. There are many services that will help you get your music on all the streaming services for a low fee. Getting people to actually listen to your work in large numbers is a second conversation.


Given the current state of the music business, one of the most important things you can do to make money as a music artist is to diversify. In other words—don’t just do one thing. Your musical talents can be put to good use in a variety of ways, and the songs you write can result in some good residual income if you get them into the right places.

If you hone in on doing only one thing musically, it’s a lot less likely to support you financially. That’s just the way things are in the business right now, especially for those who don’t have Platinum record sales yet.

On the other hand, if you work on multiple angles where your music is concerned, you may find several streams of income that will do a better job of supporting you—plus, if one stream runs dry, you won’t go completely broke because you’ll have other streams to draw from. Most independent musicians today get money for their music by doing a combination of things.


Whether you like it or not, everyone making music today is going to have to be an influencer. That’s just the reality of the situation. So, with that in mind, how do you solidify a following for yourself? Find a niche, and make content for that niche.

Build a following with those people in that specific subculture and then parlay that into support for your music. It’s an easy enough thing to say, but who whole other thing to do. Placing your time and effort into developing an online persona is just the cost of doing business these days.


Play live gigs. This comes after you have built a following, but it’s still a valuable piece of the puzzle. If you like to perform live, work on scheduling gigs for yourself at local venues. House shows are also increasing in popularity, and you’d be surprised at how well you can do there. Weddings can also be a great source of income. If you have an album recorded, bring records to sell at every gig.


Be a musical “gun for hire.” If you’re a good instrumentalist or if you enjoy doing background vocals (BGVs), there’s no shame in hiring yourself out for music gigs, live shows, even studio session work. Say yes to anything you might qualify for. There are musicians who stay busy making a good living just because they are willing to take whatever gigs come their way.


Exploit your songs. This might seem like a bad way to put it, but all “exploit” means is that you can use your intellectual property to gain an income in any way you can. If you create original music, there are many ways to get it “out there,” not just recording and selling it on iTunes.

For example, music supervisors are constantly looking for songs to license and sync to TV, film, and commercials; the pay is instant, usually good, and sometimes residual. You can also submit your songs to publishers to try and get recording artists to cut them. A lot of successful artists today got their start by writing songs for others.

The point is to find as many ways as possible to use your original music to gain income. Artists who are particularly good at this can sometimes even live on the residual income and royalties after a while.


Teach. It’s not the most glamorous thing to do, but for almost as long as music has been around, musicians have been supplementing their income by teaching others to play. It’s a common practice for musicians to give lessons during the day, followed by gigging, writing, and recording at night, and many can live on music full-time by doing this.

Ultimately, don’t use the “state of the music business” to deter you from making music. Yes, there are obstacles today, but there were different obstacles before now, and different obstacles before that. There will always be reasons why people say you can’t do it, but the ones who succeed are the ones who look for the ways they CAN do it.

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